Marian University’s new full-time chaplain, Rev. William J. Stang C.PP.S., M.D., M.Div., M.A., known to many as “Fr. Bill”, comes from St. Joseph’s College, where he held a variety of roles throughout his 40 years there including: biology professor, academic advisor, head soccer coach, religious superior, the priest-in-residence for dormitories, and chaplain.
“I believe God called me to educational ministry,” Fr. Bill said. “I have a gift for teaching, and I believe very strongly in the Catholic educational mission of teaching body, mind, and soul.”
One of Fr. Bill’s specialties is pastoral counseling. As part of his Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), he served as a chaplain in training at a maximum security prison for juveniles in Wisconsin. Years later, he served as the chaplain of the maximum security ward at Mendota Health Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. He focused on combining the Christian principles of healing, forgiveness, and compassion with psychological knowledge of mental health and disorders.
When asked how his experience in mental health has helped him assist college students, Fr. Bill said: “I used to be more critical in the judgment of mistakes. I still believe in seeking perfection in order to achieve excellence, but now I realize students cannot excel in all of this at the same time. So I work to help them prioritize. I work to pick them up and encourage them when they fall. I point out possibilities if I think they would benefit from changing priorities. I try to help them see that there are valid spiritual, moral, and ethical standards that really do work in making good decisions. I seek to involve other helpers who can reach where I cannot.”
Adam Setmeyer, vice president of campus ministry, is excited to have Fr. Bill join Marian.
“His diverse experiences as a priest, National Guard chaplain, doctor, and professor will allow him to develop relationships with students from all walks of life,” Setmeyer said. “Let me give you an example: today he spoke to the new medical students about the role of faith in the life of a doctor. The students were hanging on his every word because they knew that he had gone through the same experience! It was really powerful to witness.”
For more than 25 years, Fr. Bill was chaplain of the Indiana Army National Guard, where his primary task was to assist soldiers in their rights to religious expression. He served as Indiana State Chaplain from 2006-2011, in the rank of colonel. His responsibilities included overseeing all chaplaincy operations in both the Army and Air National Guard of Indiana.
“In the military, I learned the rich variety of religion as I worked with the worshippers and ministers of other faiths. We may be in different vehicles, but we’re driving for the same goal,” says Fr. Bill. “I saw that people with awesome power really do want God’s help in doing right. I learned I needed to start from where they were and not from what I wanted; I was there to serve them, not be served. I also found that answering God’s call, and being effective in God’s ministry, enables people not just to tolerate the external difficulties but to become stronger by overcoming them.”
Along with serving as chaplain, Stang hopes to teach at Marian University.
“I am called to teach; I would like to contribute as a teacher, and I would like the faculty to be able to see me as a colleague,” Fr. Bill said.
“Father Bill will be able to provide a presence and witness to our students on a regular basis,” Setmeyer said. “Students will see him in the dining hall, Alumni hall, football games, and, generally, all around campus. It is really powerful to get to know a priest in these types of settings, and then be with him during the Mass and other sacraments. The relationships formed are so powerful and will help create more powerful liturgical experiences.”
When asked the top three goals he hopes to achieve while serving as Marian University’s chaplain, Fr. Bill has a plan.
“My first goal is becoming an integral, effective part of Marian University’s ministry of education; being a helpful colleague of the good men and women here, Fr. Bill said. “My second goal is to grow as a person, improving my knowledge and ministry skills and improving my ability to find God in our world. My third goal is to do goals one and two in a way that makes me, and the people around me, happy about being here, in these moments, with what God has given us.”